Flinders University is committed to achieving the principle of equal opportunity in education and employment and affirms the value of social and cultural diversity which is reflected in its community.

It accepts its responsibilities under Federal and State equal opportunity laws and will take all reasonable steps to ensure that no staff member or student subjects another person to or is subjected to sexual harassment while engaged in activities reasonably connected with their role at the University, including field trips, field work, conferences and social activities related to the University. Such activities may extend beyond the University campus.

What is sexual harassment?
Examples of sexual harassment
Consequences of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is against the law
What can you do if you are being sexually harassed?
Is your behaviour likely to cause offence?
Assistance available
How can you help prevent sexual harassment?
About this information

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is any unwanted, unwelcome or uninvited behaviour of a sexual nature which makes a person feel humiliated, intimidated or offended.

Sexual harassment can take many different forms and may include physical contact, verbal comments, jokes, propositions, the display of offensive material or other behaviour which creates a sexually hostile work or study environment.

Sexual harassment is NOT behaviour which is based on mutual attraction, friendship and respect.

Examples of sexual harassment

Unwelcome physical contact

  • Uninvited touching, kisses or embraces.
  • Unwelcome physical contact, such as massaging a person without invitation or deliberately brushing up against them.
  • Sexual assault.


  • Making promises or threats in order to engage in sexual conduct which the person would otherwise not consent to.
  • Repeating invitations to go on a 'date' after the person has refused.
  • Stalking.

Sexually explicit behaviour towards an individual

  • Requests for sex.
  • Exposing genitals to an unwilling viewer.
  • Staring or leering at a person.
  • Sexual gestures.
  • Offensive phone calls, letters or emails.
  • Persistent questions or insinuations about a person’s private life.
  • Sex-based insults, taunts, teasing or name-calling.

Offensive public behaviour

  • Jokes or comments which are degrading.
  • Sexually explicit banter or conversation.
  • Graphic displays, such as posters, cartoons, graffiti, notice board messages, screen savers, which are offensive or degrading.


(Some of these behaviours are prohibited under criminal law).

Sexual harassment is against the law

Some forms of sexual behaviour that are considered harmless by some people may be considered offensive by others.

Whether the behaviour is unwelcome is a subjective test: how the conduct in question was perceived and experienced by the recipient rather than the intention behind it.

Whether the behaviour was humiliating, intimidating or offensive is an objective test: whether a reasonable person would have anticipated that the behaviour would have this effect. The unwelcome behaviour need not be repeated or continuous. A single incident can amount to sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment may occur:

  • Amongst peers - student to student or staff to staff.
  • From staff member to student or supervisor to employee.
  • From a student to a staff member or employee to supervisor.
  • to or from a member of the public in the course of university business.

Consequences of sexual harassment

For students

  • Poor study performance.
  • Absenteeism due to stress.
  • Withdrawal from courses or the University.
  • Reduced career prospects.

For staff

  • Lower productivity, poor quality work.
  • Low staff morale.
  • Absenteeism due to stress.
  • Accidents due to distraction from work.
  • resignations.

All staff and students have a responsibility for upholding the University's policy on the prevention of sexual harassment.

Surveys show that people who have been sexually harassed simply want the behaviour to stop - with as little fuss as possible.

What can you do if you are being sexually harassed?

The University has established grievance procedures to assist any member of staff or student who may have experienced sexual harassment. Complaints will be acted upon promptly, involving as few people as possible.

Confidentiality will be respected and only those directly and legitimately involved in the resolution process will be informed about the details of a complaint.

The principles of natural justice and procedural fairness apply at all stages of the complaint resolution process.

Is your behaviour likely to cause offence?

Sexual harassment is often unintended.

If you are not sure about your behaviour you can:

  • Be sensitive to signs of discomfort.
  • Stop it.
  • Apologise, if you notice discomfort.
  • Talk it over with an Equal Opportunity Contact Officer or somebody who has an understanding of the ISSes.


Be aware of cultural differences. Behaviour which is acceptable in one culture may be regarded as unacceptable or offensive in another.

Assistance available

Anyone concerned about sexual harassment may approach an Equal Opportunity Contact Officer on an informal basis. The EOCO will provide confidential assistance and support as well as information on the University's policy, relevant legislation and various resolution options available to deal with the situation.

Resolution options include:

  • Take no further action: information and support is provided by a contact officer to assist a complainant to understand the situation and therefore decide how best to deal with it. The decision may be to take no further action.
  • Deal with matter individually (self-action): information and support is provided by a contact officer to assist a complainant deal with the situation by themselves, such as by writing a letter to the respondent or speaking to the respondent.
  • Third Party Assistance: a third party, usually the Head, Equal Opportunity Unit, assists the parties to a complaint to find a resolution by discussion with each party separately.
  • Conciliation: The Equal Opportunity Unit will either conduct or make arrangements for a conciliation with a qualified and experienced conciliator. It is not the role of the conciliator to direct the outcome of the conciliation or to make a decision. A conciliator will assist each party to put forward and to consider options for a resolution of the matter which will enable them to work or study in an acceptable environment which is free from unlawful discrimination and harassment.
  • Formal complaint: In the event that conciliation is not possible the complainant may make a formal complaint by writing to the Executive Director of Administration (for students) or to the Vice-Chancellor (for staff) who will deal with the matter in accordance with the relevant grievance procedure. A complainant may seek the assistance of a contact officer in pursuing this option.
  • External complaint: The University recognises the complainant's right to refer a grievance to a relevant external agency at any time. External agencies may include the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, Equal Opportunity Commission, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Ombudsman or Police. Assistance may be sought from the Manager, Human Resources Division or the Head, Equal Opportunity Unit, as appropriate.

For full details refer to these relevant grievance procedures:

How can you help prevent sexual harassment?

Everyone can contribute to the eradication of sexual harassment.

  • Promote mutual respect between individuals, whether members of staff or students
  • Openly support and promote the University's policy on equal opportunity
  • If you observe sexual harassment, speak up and name it for what it is
  • Offer support to people who are being harassed
  • If you are a supervisor, circulate information about the University's policy and ensure it is adhered to in your area

About this information 

Whilst all care has been taken in the preparation of this brochure, its contents cannot be construed as legal advice.

Produced by the Equal Opportunity Unit,
Flinders University